If you’re like most of the people reading this, you probably buy your fish in a grocery store, or order it at a restaurant.

But the more than one-tenth of the total world population that depends on resources in local waters for subsistence get their seafood in a very different way. They catch fish and other sea creatures, usually with traditional methods, either for their own consumption or to sell on the local market. These small-scale fisheries are called artisanal.

However, just like commercial fisheries, artisanal fisheries around the world are declining due to overfishing, or fishing practices that damage the marine environment. So many non-governmental organizations and development agencies that work with these communities focus their efforts on educating and training artisanal fisheries on sustainable fishing practices.

To get a feeling for what’s involved in helping traditional fishing communities to sustain their livelihoods, and the lives of the people who depend on these marine resources, check out these five initiatives. (Hint: some of these projects accept donations from the public to their work.)

  1. Secure Fisheries

Secure Fisheries is a program of the One Earth Future Foundation that focuses on local fisheries in Somalia, Lake Victoria and Colombia. The project’s aims include eliminating illegal fishing, and educating local artisanal fishers on using marine resources in a sustainable manner. Its website contains details on specific projects, along with many articles detailing how the organization works with local communities to address these difficult problems.

  1. Slow Fish

The Slow Fish campaign considers artisanal fisheries treasure chests, filled with answers to sustainability issues that may also solve problems in the commercial fishing industry. Slow Fish is a part of Slow Food, an international organization that promotes fresh, fair and good food.

Along with facts about artisanal fisheries, Slow Fish acknowledges that global sustainability issues – such as the threat of depleting fish resources – can create feelings of insignificance and hopelessness. So the project offers handy tips and suggestions on what individuals can do in their own lives to improve the state of the world’s fisheries, leaving readers with an optimistic feeling that they can make a difference!

Sustainable development efforts are often paired with innovation and new technology. Slow Fish reminds us that solutions can often also be found in traditional knowledge and methods.


  1. Fish Forever

Fish Forever, another project that focuses on empowering local fishers to improve the global fisheries crisis, currently works in Belize, Brazil, Indonesia, Mozambique and the Philippines. Efforts include educating local communities in sustainable fishing methods and the conservation of biodiversity.

Directly supporting these communities is among Fish Forever’s “eight elements of success.” Another is helping communities declare certain water areas as “fish recovery zones” where locals are discouraged from fishing, so that fish populations can recover to a sustainable level.

Fish Forever is a partnership of three American NGOs: Environmental Defense Fund, Rare and the Sustainable Fisheries Group.

  1. World Wildlife Fund (WWF)

In one of the many clear and helpful infographics available on this website, WWF declares that 12 percent of the world depends on fish to survive, and that 90 percent of those people are artisanal fishers (of whom half are women).

WWF contributes to the sustainable development of such artisanal fisheries by:

  • Empowering local small-scale fishers and sharing expert knowledge with them
  • Promoting sustainable fish certifications such as Marine Stewardship Council (MSC)
  • Working to change fishing laws towards a focus on biodiversity conservation and long-term economic prosperity, and helping to enforce them

One of many fascinating articles on this site describes how WWF has worked with local fishers in Pakistan to create awareness of  biodiversity conservation,

  1. GEF Small Grants Programme – International Waters

Interested in how the international community addresses, and funds, work in marine conservation and fisheries? One part of the United Nations-affiliated GEF Small Grants Programme (GEF-SGP) focuses on reversing environmental degradation in maritime ecosystems on which artisanal fisheries depend.

This website is a little old-fashioned, but information-rich, with many stories and videos of projects to protect water quality, plant mangroves, and restore endangered fish species. See for example the work in Cambodia, Fiji, Belize, Tuvalu and Guyana.

The GEF-SGP is a collaboration between The Global Environment Facility (GEF) and the United Nations Development Programme.